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December 17, 2007

Reporters should quit protecting cheap-shot artists

Posted by David Postman at 10:13 AM

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz has a column this morning that I hope will be read by every reporter covering the presidential campaign. It's a spot-on attack on the widespread granting anonymity to campaign aides so they can lob attacks on competitors.

Is it really necessary to allow operatives from one campaign to attack another candidate without their names attached? These strategists are paid to slam the other contenders. Why should they be able to hide behind a curtain of anonymity? Do you really want to be aiding and abetting that sort of cheap-shot politics?

Bravo, Mr. Kurtz. He lists some recent examples, including from his own paper. My favorite, though, is this:

The Los Angeles Times quotes an "aide" to Mike Huckabee saying that Mitt Romney's Mormonism "is definitely a factor in the race. . . . To a lot of people, [Mormonism] is a strange religion that they don't understand." This is a twofer: The aide gets to demean not just Romney but also an entire religion.

In 1987, John Sasso was forced to resign as campaign manager for Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis after admitting that he gave the New York Times, Des Moines Register and NBC a videotape showing that Joe Biden had plagiarized language from a British politician. But the tape simply contrasted publicly available speeches. These days, campaign operatives don't need such "evidence"; they simply whisper unflattering remarks to favored correspondents.

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